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Tearing it up in Central Park: A new page for the town center

Tearing it up in  Central Park: A new page for the town center
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By Mira Braneck

Construction that has been developing all summer in Central Park is set to conclude on Nov. 1, bringing a variety of new features and attractions to the downtown park, including a water feature.

The project is part of a mission envisioned by the city park system task force. Local citizens joined with city staff to develop a plan to better the nine parks in the park system of Grinnell. The Central Park project will be the final project envisioned by the task force.

Mayor Gordon Canfield hopes that the improvements will bring more people to the park.

“People just didn’t use the park. Everybody admired it … well, why do you have a park? To improve the quality of life, give people things to do, places to go. Pleasant, safe, nice surroundings. But you have to have a reason for them to want to come,” Canfield said.

With that in mind, the plan for the park aimed to make it more attractive and usable for the people of Grinnell. New features include a stage in a contemporary prairie style architecture, a picnic shelter with restrooms and a public fireplace, new sidewalks, improved lighting and more benches. There will also be a new water feature and a plaza with water jets that the public can run through in the hot weather. The jets will light up at night as well.

The project was funded through a combination of state grants and private donors, according to Canfield.

“A huge amount of money came from private donors,” Canfield said. About 600,000 dollars were raised in a two month period. “That tells you that people really want to see the park change and progress.”

“There has been some controversy over [the Veterans’ Building],” Canfield said. “There is a group of people that are on the Veterans’ Commission that want to keep the building. There’s another group of people in town that would rather not have the building there … so you have two opposing forces.”

Some believe that because the building needs a great deal of work it should be closed. The building needs new plumbing and has had issues with asbestos in the past, according to Canfield. However, the question of whether or not to keep the structure will be decided in November 2017, when a referendum on the ballot will ask the people of Grinnell if they are willing to incur a 41 cent per 1,000 dollar tax levy in order to renovate and maintain the building. The tax would raise approximately 125,000 dollars, according to Canfield. If this tax is not passed, it is likely that the building will be knocked down.

While construction is set to be completed Nov. 1, the park will be completely done come late spring after the final landscaping touches are completed.

“It’s going to be a showplace, when it’s all done,” Canfield said. “It’s going to be a destination that people from surrounding areas and towns will come and take a look at.”

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